Archive for December, 2011

Ginza kissaten: Café Bechet

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Four minutes and seven seconds are required to craft a cup of coffee at Café Bechet. Named after Sidney Bechet, the jazz clarinetist whose vinyl album covers and b/w photos grace the walls, this kissaten offers a respite from the crowds and prices of Ginza with old school jazz and old school coffee quality.

After you select the bean you prefer, say Kilimanjaro, and decide on the roasting style—city roast, full city roast, French roast, etc. (the various beans variously roasted daily are on full display in glass Mason jars on shelves behind the long wooden counter)—the master, a serious woman of a certain age, will weigh out the beans on an old balance scale, perhaps taking out or adding a bean or two to get the perfect weight, then pour the beans into an industrial-sized grinder. After a few seconds the beans are ground and she’ll load the fragrant grind into a “neru” (felt) drip filter. Then with a curious up and down, side-to-side, pouring motion (that I’ve not seen anywhere else), she’ll carefully dribble a stream of freshly boiled water into the filter making sure the ground coffee is fully saturated until the finished coffee starts to drain into a small lipped copper pot. After her constant slow pouring has succeeded in filling the pot with a cupful of coffee, she’ll briefly hold the copper pot over a blue gas flame to regain any temperature the liquid has lost during the filtering stage. The coffee is then poured into a pre-warmed porcelain cup.

This is excellent coffee with the taste of each type of bean and each type of roast fully realized. With your coffee, try a slice of the superb gateau chocolate made with Valrhona chocolate.

This is a place for gathering thoughts while listening to jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. Mounted on the rear wall above an old boxy vacuum-tube radio is a trombone whose old brass once gleamed.

Bring a book here, perhaps Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere by André Aciman.

2-2-19 Ginza. Tel: 03.3564.3176. Open weekdays 10:30am to 10:30pm. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays 12 noon to 9:30pm. The kissaten is quite close to Printemps Department Store near the Yurakucho Subway Line, Ginza 1-chome station, #4 exit.